Gary Hume is renowned for paintings distinguished by a bright palette, reduced imagery and flat areas of seductive colour. While Hume’s paintings have always emphasised their luscious surfaces and simplified forms, many are infused with a melancholic beauty.
Hume first received critical acclaim with a body of work known as the ‘Door’ paintings. These minimal and abstract works, using high gloss paint to create an insistently reflective surface, developed in the early 1990s into a broader set of motifs, including the nude, the portrait, flora, as well as a pictorial idiom drawn from childhood, with images of polar bears, snowmen, rabbits, owls and close-up faces. Hume’s subject matter broadened further through the mid 1990s to incorporate images from popular culture, making portraits of celebrity figures such as Tony Blackburn, Kate Moss and Patsy Kensit. For the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (1999), he produced a series called the ‘Water Paintings’; large-scale works of multiple, overlapping line drawings of nudes, where the line was created by leaving the aluminium surface bare against flat areas of gloss colour.
‘Cave Paintings’, the title of a show at White Cube Hoxton Square in 2006, featured seven marble tableaux composed of a variety of different stones set against each other in collaged sections appearing as tectonic plates. These are held together by a lead tracery that provides the outer limit to the expanses of colour, mapping the natural faults and veins inherent in the stone itself. These monolithic compositions are hand-carved and richly decadent, combining visual motifs from the natural world with imagery suggestive of human birth and fundamental, instinctive emotions.
Hume acquired a studio in upstate New York in the early 2000s and has since spent half of each year in the USA. In 2007 he exhibited a group of works called ‘American Tan’, the imagery for which was mined from images of the ‘all-American’ cheerleader. The paradoxical innocence and sexuality of this figure allowed Hume to create a series of paintings and sculptures that felt both celebratory and disquieting, an ambivalence that reflects the artist’s view of American culture. More recently, Hume has explored the imagery of innocent and rural America with paintings of barn doors and flowers, imagery drawn directly from his rural American surroundings.
Gary Hume was born in Kent in 1962 and lives and works in London and upstate New York, USA. Solo shows include São Paulo Bienal (1996), Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (1999), the National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh (1999), Fundação La Caixa, Barcelona (2000), Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2003), Kunsthaus Bregenz (2004), Kestnergesellschaft, Hannover (2004), ‘Door Paintings’, Modern Art Oxford (2008), ‘Gary Hume: Flashback’, Arts Council touring exhibition, England and Scotland and ‘Beauty’, Pinchuk Art Centre, Kiev (2012), ‘Gary Hume’, Tate Britain, London (2013) and ‘The Wonky Wheel’, Matthew Marks Gallery, New York (2014). Group shows include ‘The Royal Academy at Hatfield House’, Hatfield House, London (2013), ‘Full House’, Schönewald Fine Arts, Dusseldorf (2013), ‘Encounter: The Royal Academy Exhibition in Asia/Middle East’, Lasalle College of Art, Singapore, Katara Cultural Village Foundation, Doha, Qatar (2012-13), Royal Academy Schools, London (2006), Tate Britain, London (2004), ‘The Bird has a Yellow Beak’, Kunsthaus Bregenz (2004), Louisiana Museum, Denmark (2004), Kunsthalle Basel (2002) and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2001).
Hume was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1996, and represented Great Britain in the Venice Biennale in 1999; in 2001 he was elected as a Royal Academician.